No personal blog crapola.
Just one guy's quest to unlock the mysterious art of storytelling on screen.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Alien 5? Have I got a deal for you!

Update: see this post for a Wikipedia history of Alien 5 rumours.

I want to write the next Alien screenplay.

I want to pull the franchise out of the toilet and make it potent again. But, alas, people like Paul W. S. Anderson, writer of Alien vs. Predator, conspire to keep the lid down and the toilet door barricaded shut. The Aliens franchise is not escaping the sewers any time soon, if those people have their way.

Aliens in the sewers. Wasn't that the plot for Alien 3? Or 4?

Now and then I press my ear to the toilet door, and for a second I think I hear splashing and a faint gurgle, like there might still be life in there -- a claw reaching out from the S-bend, perhaps. No. I've pretty much given up hope.

Probably Ms Weaver is the sole force that can return the franchise to the screen (but read on for my idea about how to restart the franchise without her). So it's unlikely we'll see another Alien film anytime soon. Unless Ridley Scott tosses his hat back in the ring...

"... when interviewed in 2005 after the release of Alien vs. Predator, Scott stated that the franchise had been wrung dry and was no longer interesting to him. However, another interview has stated he is regaining some interest and that the fifth film might happen after all..." - link

But it's not all gloom and doom. There is one thing that keeps me awake at night. One thing that sends shivers down my spine when I start to contemplate what might have been. What might be. Here's what sets my imagination racing. It's on page 55 of the Aliens script, scene 107:

NOTE: The following screenplay content has been reformatted to fit this page and does not represent standard script format.


VASQUEZ
Wake up, pendejo! I'm gonna kill you, you useless fuck!

Hicks pushes her back. Right in her face.

HICKS
Hold it. Hold it. Back off, right now.

Vasquez releases Gorman. His head smacks the deck.

HUDSON
Hey... hey! Look, Wierzbowski and Dietrich aren't dead, man. Their signs are real low but they ain't dead.

They turn to see Hudson at the MTOB monitors, pointing at the bio-function screens.

VASQUEZ
Well I guess we better just go back in and get them.

HUDSON
I ain't going back. Fuck that.

Hudson is pale, his voice panicky.

RIPLEY
You can't help them. Right now they're being cocooned just like those colonists.



Yes. That's right. Wierzbowski and Dietrich aren't dead, man.

To refresh your memory, Dietrich is the female soldier toting the flamethrower who gets ex-ed out by the very first direct alien attack, about 70 min in.

Wierzbowski is... well, underused. He has no speaking lines, as far as I can tell from a quick skim through the script. It's as if Jim Cameron forgot about him entirely until the moment he gets blown into a pillar when a satchel of burning explosives ignite (thanks to Dietrich's spastic flamethrowing while the alien pulls her to the ceiling).

Now, admittedly, these two-bit characters don't strike me as having an indefatigable lust for life. Cameron put them there as alien fodder, pure and simple, and they dutifully played that role. Because we know so little about them, these two characters are blank slates. Their backstories could be as rich and fascinating as Hudson or Hicks. Not that we get oodles of backstory for those two guys, sure, but you just know Hudson and Hicks have stories to tell. Dietrich and Wierzbowski have the same potential.

So consider this: by the time the marines regroup after the first head-on alien attack, and then Bishop delivers the bad news that the emergency venting is gonna blow in four hours, vaporising everything in a 30-km radius, what possible scenarios could play out for Dietrich and Wierzbowski?

I have a few ideas.

What if Wierzbowski regained consciousness while cocooned? What if he got himself free, somehow, and then rescued Dietrich, and the two of them located a salvageable dropship or other means of transport... they don't need anything fancy, just something that can get them, say, 50-km from where they are right now, and do it within four hours.

Oh, but you're asking, Sure, let's say those two escape the clutches of the alien hive, but how do they know about the imminent threat of the emergency venting?

Sorry. I'm not on the the studio payroll yet, so I'm going to leave that brainstorming for another day.

However... I figure at least one of them is clever enough to cobble together a comms device so they can eavesdrop on the radio chatter coming from their holed-up marine buddies. The problem is, it's one way only. They can listen, but they can't contact their colleagues.

And that brings us to a fun thought: having escaped the aliens, what if Dietrich and Wierzbowski are trying to break through the barricades and defenses to join their buddies inside the compound? That would be a bit hairy, I imagine, what with the aliens trying to do the same thing.

Here's more playful conjecture. By now you'll have realized that I'd like to jetison Alien 3 and 4. That's not hard to do. They are sufficiently removed from the core of the alien franchise (1 and 2) that they can be cut loose with barely a whimper. Space travel lets us play with timelines, as evidenced in this scene from Aliens, so there is a lot of wiggle room for plotting around the awfulness of 3 and 4:


RIPLEY
Have they located my daughter yet?

BURKE
Well, I was going to wait until after the inquest...

He opens his briefcase, removing a sheet of printer hard copy, including a telestat photo.

RIPLEY
Is she...?

BURKE
(scanning)
Amanda Ripley-McClaren. Married name, I guess. Age: sixty-six... at time of death. Two years ago.
(looks at her)
I'm sorry.

Ripley studies the PHOTOGRAPH, stunned. The face of a woman in her mid-sixties. It could be anybody. She tries to reconcile the face with the little girl she once knew.

BURKE
(reading)
Cancer. Hmmm. They still haven't licked that one. Cremated. Interred Westlake Repository, Little Chute, Wisconsin. No children.

Ripley gazes off, into the pseudo-landscape, into the past.

RIPLEY
No children.
(a beat, then)
I promised her I'd be home for her birthday. Her eleventh birthday.



Hmmm. Ripley's daughter, eh?

It's a nice character moment for Ripley, connecting her extraordinary deeds in space with her commonplace life on Earth, and highlighting the sacrifices she's endured. For plotting purposes, it sets up Ripley's mother-daughter connection with Newt. But maybe also, in the back of his head, Jim Cameron knew he was unlocking a door he might step through one day, if he continued with the series.

Does that or does that not scream at you, Mr Producer, about a revitalised Alien franchise that takes place somewhere during the fifty or so years between the events of Alien 1 and Alien 2? A sub-franchise, so to speak, where Ripley's daughter takes the starring role. A daughter whose mother never made it back for her eleventh birthday, as promised. A daughter who, for all of her adult life, knew her mother was out there somewhere in the depths of space, but didn't know if she was alive or dead. What kind of person would that daughter grow up to be? Again, I have a few ideas.

Amanda Ripley.

We know that Ripley's daughter married, had no children, and died of cancer at sixty-six. We know that she spent a lonely eleventh birthday waiting and waiting and waiting some more for her mother to knock on that door and greet her with an armful of presents, a bright smile and wide, loving eyes, and a hug that wouldn't end for five minutes. What about everything after?

I can tell you now, folks: between the ages of eleven and sixty-six, that woman lived a life you would not believe... and yes, her life, like her mother's, turned out to be intimately connected to LV-426 and those creatures...

According to IMDB.com, Amanda Ripley was alive in Cameron's treatment for the film, turned in to the studio 0n September 21, 1983:

"Ripley's daughter was alive, and Ripley had a disheartening videophone conversation with her, where she blamed Ripley for abandoning her by going to space."

UPDATE: I dug out my copy of the the Alien II treatment, by David Giler & Walter Hill and James Cameron, dated September 21, 1983. Here's the section about the videophone conversation:

VID-PHONE ROOM - SATELLITE STATION BETA

The Med-tech helps Ripley place a vid-phone call to her daughter.

The conversation is short and devastating.

Ripley remembers her daughter as a bright ten year old living with her ex-husband before her last trip out. She is unprepared to see an arthritically crippled old woman who icily accuses her of abandoning her when she chose her life in space. Even after 60 years, the pain and loss well forth, and the image of Ripley unchanged by the years only triggers hatred in the old woman.

Ripley clicks off.



But enough about Amanda Ripley. That's just a quick shout-out to the studio execs who are scratching their heads about how to kick-start a new alien franchise without Ms Weaver, should they desire to make it so.

Now, back to LV-426, where we left Wierzbowski and Diertrich desperately trying to get back to their squad mates, failing, and realizing they need to get out of the blast zone before the vent blows. There's a technical conceit here that I think would work beautifully.

Imagine revisiting the section of the Aliens from the point where Hudson notices that Wierzbowski and Diertrich are still alive (p.55; scene 107) until Bishop picks up Ripley and Newt (p.100; scene 187). Imagine replaying that whole section of plot... but from Wierzbowski and Diertrich's point of view, as they escape the egg chamber and try to regroup with their marine buddies, all the while trying to evade the aliens, too.

The new movie and the old movie (Aliens) would cross tracks here and there at certain familiar points. We'd overhear snippets of familiar dialogue over Wierzbowski and Diertrich's jury-rigged comms device. We'd catch fleeting glimpses of the other characters when Wierzbowski and Diertrich almost catch up with them, before those two are driven back by advancing aliens or the marines' anti-alien perimeter defenses. A fun plot device, IMHO.

Let's say that Wierzbowski and Diertrich realise that the clock has run out. Despite their desperate efforts, they've failed to communicate their survival to their fleeing marine buddies, and if they don't leg it now then they'll be toast when the vent goes critical.

Let's continue to speculate that they get clear of the blast zone just in time, by whatever device the screenwriter can dream up. At this point, Ripley's dropship is punching through the stratosphere, and she's about to have her bitch-slap with Queen Bee.

Back planetside, Dietrich and Wierzbowski have a brief moment to enjoy surviving the blast. What now? The alien queen is gone. What of the surviving alien horde? What other survival challenges do Dietrich and Wierzbowski face?

There is a lot of fun to be had here by the hypothetical screenwriter tackling this continuation of the Alien storyline. In my case, I see Wierzbowski going a little nuts after a while, and becoming a Kurtz figure: joining the natives, becoming king of the remaining aliens and leading them off the planet. For Diertrich, an opposite path: trying to stop Wierzbowski, for example. Anything's possible. But this time, Mr Producer, whatever road you take, let's care about the characters, please.

As a final note to my Alien franchise musings, here are some brief notes I scribbled, years ago, while thinking about how to revitalise the series:

Parallel the situation with the rabbit virus: a small number of hosts are infected with the virus and sent out to infect the host community. One possibility is that some powerful alien race infected the 'derelict' aliens with the 'facehugger' alien, intending that the derelict alien hosts return to their community and spread the 'virus' -- wiping out their race. But perhaps the derelict aliens realised what was happening and they deliberately crashed their ship on LV426. Or perhaps the crash was just an accident -- the facehuggers evolved too quickly or something. This leads to many other possibilities. What if Human Government scientists were the ones who infected the derelict aliens and sent them back to destroy their home world? This would explain why a fleet of 'derelict' alien spacecraft appear in our solar system, ready for war with mankind. Or perhaps the fleet is from the aliens who infected the 'derelict' aliens. Having released the facehuggers, they arrive expecting to find all life wiped out in this region of the galaxy.


So, finally, here are a couple scenes I wrote for my Alien 5 movie.

The first intros Amanda Ripley and gives you a hint of what her profession might be. The second scene is the 'Alien 5 opening scene' you'll find elsewhere on the net, the one that's been floating around for years.

NOTE-2: With the screenplay content that follows, watch for bits of formatting that don't belong in a writer's draft. As I cast my eye over this old stuff of mine, I see I was trying to direct as I went along (and edit, too!). That's fine... if you're a writer-director like Jim Cameron. Not fine for a writer trying to get his or her script read. An important quality for a writer's draft (which is all drafts leading up to the one that sells) is flow. You don't want a lot of mechanical formatting interrupting that precious story flow. Give 'em the show first and leave the business for the shooting script.

-----

FADE IN:

INT. TENNIS COURT - NIGHT

Apparently an indoor tennis court lit by powerful floodlights. Two teenage couples at either end, playing doubles. Serve, smash volley, lob... they're having a competitive but friendly game.

AT THE ARENA DOORS, another group of teenagers enter. They're all a little drunk and have obviously just left a party.

ON THE COURT, the players spot the new arrivals and greet them merrily before returning to the game.

AT THE DOORS, a boy in a baseball cap whispers conspiratorially to the group. Smiles all round. A girl moves to a panel near the door. On it, several levers and dials. She locates a keycard in a slot, removes it, and takes hold of a lever. Baseball Cap kicks over a nearby bucket of tennis balls, nods to the girl at the switch.

ON COURT, a player is about to serve. Up goes the ball...

AT THE PANEL, the girl yanks the lever...

And the ball keeps going up. The players rise off the court. No trace of gravity. The partying teenagers kick off into the air, twisting, rolling, screaming with delight. The players get into the fun, bashing away at the dozens of balls now drifting around them. It's a free-fall free-for-all.

WE MOVE UP through the mayhem of criss-crossing balls and tumbling teenagers, OUT THROUGH the top of the transparent dome of the arena, AND CONTINUE BACK, as the arena dwindles to a point on the surface of...

EXT. GATEWAY STATION

A vast space station in earth orbit. Our blue-green planet looks magnificent behind it.

FOLLOW a small spaceship as it approaches an external docking bay. The ship lands near others. An automated access corridor extends to link the ship to the main complex.

INT. DOCKING AREA CORRIDOR

Two male service personnel stand at one of many hatchways along the long corridor. This hatch is marked BAY 41. Technician #1 carries an A4-sized datapad, the other holds some sort of scanning equipment. They watch a small screen next to the door as a demure woman with a briefcase approaches the other side of the hatch. The technician with the datapad thumbs a panel button.

TECHNICIAN #1
Welcome to Gateway Station. Please insert your transit card.

On the monitor the woman inserts a card somewhere offscreen.

It emerges from the panel on the technician's side. Technician #1 removes it and inserts it into the side of his datapad. Touches the datapad screen a few of times. BEEPS.

TECHNICIAN #1 (CONT'D)
(to partner)
Jessica G. Martin. Authorised.

Technician #2 palms a switch. A light over the hatch flicks from red to green and the hatch hisses open.

The two men are momentarily awed. It's not often they get to lock eyes on a lady this classy. The woman looks to be about 30 and is dressed in a stunning outfit -- obviously tailored for the boardroom, but it does little to tame the raw femininity of her presence. She greets their momentary paralysis with a beautific smile.

BUSINESS LADY
Gentlemen.
(beat)
Is there a problem with my transit permit?

Technician #2 nudges his dumbfounded buddy.

TECHNICIAN #1
Problem? No problem.
(another beat)
My name's Dave. Dave Bennett.

Technician #2 chokes back a laugh at his partner's lame reply. Business Lady plays along good-naturedly.

BUSINESS LADY
Dave. Great. Look, fellas, I'm on kind of a tight schedule, so can we ...

TECHNICIAN #1
Tight schedule, yes, of course. Tight... Your card ...

He pulls it from the datapad and returns it. Business Lady gives him another amused look. Technician #1 snaps out of it, realizing he and his buddy are blocking her way. They hot-foot it to one side.

TECHNICIAN #1 (CONT'D)
Oh, right. We'll just, ah, finish doing our ... doing our, ah, thing.

She strides away down the corridor. Technician #2 glances down the open hatchway, puzzled. He calls after her:

TECHNICIAN #2
Excuse me, ma'am. Is your pilot staying on your ship?

BUSINESS LADY
(over shoulder)
Pilot? You're looking at her. Have a good shift, fellas.

TECHNICIAN #1
(softly)
Hello Mrs Bennett!

...

INT. DOCKING AREA CORRIDOR

Technician #1 and #2 stand at the hatch to BAY 75. Same routine as before.

TECHNICIAN #1
Welcome to Gateway. Insert your transit card please.

The card appears in the panel. He runs it through his datapad as we saw earlier. BEEP.

TECHNICIAN #1 (CONT'D)
Green light, but...

TECHNICIAN #2
But what?

TECHNICIAN #1
Says Jessica G Martin. She came through an hour ago, remember?

TECHNICIAN #2
Yeah, yeah, your future ex, I remember. Mark it for follow-up. Some idiot in data entry must've crosslinked the files again.

Technician #2 activates the door. It hisses open. They look in. Then look at each other in stunned shock. And look again at the beautiful, well-dressed woman standing in the hatchway. She's almost a mirror copy of the business woman the techs encountered earlier: same hair-do, same briefcase, same clothes almost down to the last accessory. There's one big difference: this woman has a bitch of an attitude. She's trying to light a cigarette but her lighter won't hold a flame. Behind her is a harried-looking pilot.

BITCHY BUSINESS LADY
Christ, what's the story? Did somebody turn down the oxygen in here?

TECHNICIAN #1
(quietly to buddy)
It's de-ja-vu all over again.

TECHNICIAN #2
Ah -- there's no smoking allowed on the Gateway, ma'am.

BITCHY BUSINESS LADY
(rapidfire)
Fucking wonderful. You know, I really hate getting this close to Earth. No smoking, no this, no that. All you goddamn puritans with your restoration policies. You want to turn Earth into some holy Mecca tourist attraction. That's the only reason for the big clean up. Dollars. I've done the research, buddy. They're going to market earth as the wellspring of humanity and charge admission. Bottom line, dollars.

The techs move from stunned shock to silent confusion. Who the hell is this arrogant lady? Tech #1 glances at his datapad.

TECHNICIAN #1
Another reporter? Some big event happening today?

BITCHY BUSINESS LADY
(indignant)
No, I'm not just a reporter. I'm a public information specialist.

TECHNICIAN #2
Piss.

BITCHY BUSINESS LADY
What did you say?

TECHNICIAN #2
Public information specialist. P-I-S spells piss.

Now it's the woman's turn to be speechless. She snatches her card out of Tech #1's datapad, pushes them aside. As she storms away:

BITCHY BUSINESS LADY
Goddamn grease monkeys! Your supervisor is going to hear about this!

TECHNICIAN #1
(quietly to Tech #2)
Hello bitch queen of the universe.

TECHNICIAN #2
Definitely the wicked step-sister.

-----

SPACE

A backdrop of stars, traces of colorful galaxies.

INTO FRAME AS WE MOVE BACK: A BEACON. Old, scarred. One side crumpled from an explosion. Weyland-Yutani emblon visible. The beacon's navigation light blinks erratically.

BACK FURTHER revealing an astronaut with a HANDHELD JETPACK nearing the beacon. A TETHER snakes out behind the figure.

CONTINUING BACK shows the tether attached to a SPACESHIP built like a giant Swiss army knife -- a repair ship. On one side of the ship: B42-GOV/WY-FRONTIER 'BERTHA'. Inside the open cargo bay sits a NEW BEACON, this one a sleeker model than the one outside. Its nav light strobes eagerly.

INT. BERTHA

CONRAD, mid-20s, wearing Weyland-Yutani overalls, floats weightless and inverted at the cabin ceiling. He retrieves a thick manual from a compartment then kicks off toward the main viewscreen, where TIBBS, fat and in his 50s, is buckled into a pilot chair. Tibbs sucks purple mush through the straw of a food container. His straining t-shirt reads: W-Y LITTLE LEAGUE - GO COLTS GO! Conrad slips a headset on. They watch the astronaut on the screen.

THE BEACON

DEBBIE, 20-ish and sassy, fires the jetpack to align herself with the beacon. She grabs a hand hold, climbs over to a control box, and attaches a tether from her suit harness to part of the beacon.

DEBBIE
That's it, we're hitched.

CONRAD (V.O.)
Can I kiss the bride?

DEBBIE
No, but you can kiss my ass.

INT. BERTHA

CONRAD
It's a deal. Listen, that damaged panel looks unstable. Skip the
external and go straight for diagnostics, okay?

DEBBIE (V.O.)
You're the boss, Conrad.

TIBBS
(to Debbie; mouth full)
Ah, technically I'm the boss. I've got twenty years with the company; Conrad's got six months and an uncle in personnel.

THE BEACON

Debbie uses a small tool to pop open the panel. Buttons, a screen, and two large switch-breakers inside. She thumbs the two switches. Buttons light up. The screen flutters to life with: AUXILLARY POWER ON / MAX 50 MINUTES FULL LOAD/ COMMAND? The screen glitches intermittently.

DEBBIE
The pile is down. Backup power seems okay, though.

CONRAD (V.O.)
Patch in a filter just in case.

She takes a small electronic unit from her utility belt. In her other hand she uses a gun-shaped tool to squirt some sticky goop on the back on the unit, which she jams onto the rim of the control panel. She hooks it up between the main tether and the control panel.

DEBBIE
All set. You should have a clean feed now.

The screen flashes through some menus, then fills with a stream of data.

INT. BERTHA

Still eating, Tibbs watches a nearby monitor blur with data.

TIBBS
That's affirmative.

Tibbs and Conrad work the ship computers.

DEBBIE (V.O.)
What's the verdict? Do we salvage?

CONRAD
(scanning readouts)
This one's pretty much brain dead.

DEBBIE (V.O.)
Don't go all technical on me.

TIBBS
The analysis shows multiple fractures in the substructure. Too risky to bring it onboard for a strip-down so we'll just go with standard procedure and deep-six
it.

THE BEACON - INTERCUT

DEBBIE
So that was a yes or a no?

CONRAD
Ah, Debbie, I believe that was a negative.

DEBBIE
Okey-dokey. How do we blow it?

CONRAD
See that big red button labeled "self-destruct"?

DEBBIE
(looking hard)
I don't see it.

TIBBS
That's because there isn't one. Young lady, you really should have paid attention during basic training. We prime the reactor for detonation from here. Standby. Conrad, give me the core activation string.

Conrad consults the manual. On the cover: WEYLAND YUTANI / FRONTIER DIV. / ADVANCED WARNING SYSTEMS / CLASSIFIED B2.

CONRAD
(from manual)
Delta charlie dash one seven zero.

TIBBS
(typing)
D-C-one-seven-zero. Confirmed.

The beacon's control screen now reads: EVENT DELAY (MINUTES)?

DEBBIE
It's showing some kind of timer.

CONRAD
(bouncing it off Tibbs)
Ten minutes to get her back and unsuited, ten minutes to move to a
safe distance. Say fifteen minutes contingency. Thirty-five?

TIBBS
Thirty-five minutes is ample.
(he types)

CONRAD
Return to deploy the new beacon, then dinner and a quick game of Scrabble -- we'll be in hyper-sleep and headed for home within a couple
hours. Outstanding.

Debbie watches the screen shuffle through menus. A countdown appears: 35 MINUTES TO POWER CORE IGNITION.

DEBBIE
Warm up my slippers. I'm on my way.

INT. BERTHA

An alarm sounds. The two men jump to the controls.

CONRAD
Proximity alert. Picking up a huge neutrino echo. Somebody's dropping out of L-space right on top of us.

TIBBS
Nobody should be out this far ...

CONRAD
There's a shitload of matter influx. Too much for just one ship. Looks
more like a fucking planet!

TIBBS
Debbie! You copy that? We've got L-space activity! Hold on!

SPACE

A portal opens, squeezing into normal space. A wall of light. Blinding. Debbie cringes in the beacon's shadow. Conrad and Tibbs shield their eyes. Then ... all light gets sucked back to its pinhole origin. Where there was nothing is now a vast fleet of alien spacecraft. Twenty in all. Several makes and sizes, but all follow the same basic design. We've seen their type before... on LV-421 -- the derelict spacecraft with its crop of deadly facehuggers.

A red-blue energy wave ripples outward from the fleet. The shockwave is brutal but losing energy fast as it dissipates.

INT. BERTHA

The main viewscreen splits into windows showing the beacon, the energy wave, and a rapid visual scan of the alien fleet.

In that window the computer reports: SCAN COMPLETE / IDENTIFICATION FAILED ON MULTIPLE UNKNOWN OBJECTS, STRUCTURE AND COMPOSITION UNKNOWN / LIFEFORMS DETECTED, SPECIES UNKNOWN.

CONRAD
Fuckers didn't even knock first.

TIBBS
Oh Christ. Here comes the Phase shift aftershock.

CONRAD
Debbie! Use the beacon as your shield. Get behind the beacon!

THE BEACON

Debbie sees the approaching shockwave and clambers sideways to get behind the beacon.

INT. BERTHA

The blastwave hits them. It buffets the ship for a few seconds. Sends objects cascading through the weightless cabin. Scrambles all electronics. Systems fail. No power.

THE BEACON

Debbie hugs the beacon as it goes tumbling. It reaches the end of the tether and jerks tight, nearly throwing Debbie off. The momentum sends Bertha and the beacon spinning around each other in dizzying circles.

Debbie regains her hold. Stars whirl past. She looks at the control screen. Dead. All lights off.

DEBBIE
Bertha, Bertha, you copy? The beacon just lost backup!

INT. BERTHA

Tibbs and Conrad recover from the impact, scan the computers.

CONRAD
The blastwave fritzed our power too.

TIBBS
Whoever that is out there, it's not us. And they're headed this way.

CONRAD
Debbie, get back in here now!

Tibbs rips off panels and frantically examines wiring and componentry. Conrad watches Debbie's image on screen.

THE BEACON

Debbie can't detach the tether. The blastwave has twisted the catch, snagging it in the hook. She yanks at it but it won't budge.

DEBBIE
Damn this mainline, Conrad, it's stuck!

CONRAD (V.O.)
C'mon, Deb, detach and get your ass in here on the double.

She pauses as the beacon suddenly stutters back to life. The nav light flickers on, the control panel lights up, and the screen returns with the countdown timer. But there's a difference that freezes Debbie's blood in her veins: the timer reads: 4 MIN 50 SEC TO REACTOR IGNITION (NO RECOURSE).

INT. BERTHA

DEBBIE (O.S.)
Oh shit. The power's back but the timer is down to four minutes!

TIBBS
What? Four minutes to detonation?

CONRAD
No power, we're tied to a bomb, and we're surrounded by aliens. This was not in my fucking contract!

TIBBS
(working frantically)
Check the fineprint.

THE BEACON

Debbie stabs at keys on the beacon's control panel. She gives up and pounds it with her fist in frustration.

DEBBIE
Cancel the self-destruct order! Tibbs, transmit the code now!

INT. BERTHA

TIBBS
Negative. It's too late for that. There's no failsafe under five minutes. No recourse. We can't stop it.

CONRAD
Listen to me, Debbie. Cut the mainline. Use your suit laser.

THE BEACON

Debbie presses a switch on her glove. A pencil-sized laser extends over her index finger. She points it at the tether linking her and the beacon, activates it with her thumb. A narrow beam starts biting into the thick cable. The beam cuts out, flickers, cuts out again, returns.

DEBBIE
Goddammit!

INT. BERTHA

The Bertha's power returns. All systems back online. Tibbs whoops and leaps into the pilot's chair. He begins programming the nav computer.

CONRAD
Deb, the ship's back online. We need to put some space between us and that fucking beacon!

TIBBS
How much time?

DEBBIE (O.S.)
Three minutes. Repeat, three minutes.

Tibbs powers up the engines.

EXT. BERTHA

The ship stabilises, no longer spinning, and begins accelerating smoothly away.

THE BEACON

Debbie clings on as the beacon whips around and gets towed behind Bertha.

DEBBIE
Hey, what the...?

INT. BERTHA

CONRAD
Tibbs! What are you doing?

TIBBS
I'm getting us the hell away from that alien fleet. It's no coincidence they appear where a recon beacon is out of action. They probably disabled it in advance.

CONRAD
We don't know that. They could be friendly!

TIBBS
Sure, maybe they're just out here for a picnic.

Tibbs stares Conrad down, then secretly hits a console button.

EXT. BERTHA

The cargo bay doors begin to close.

CLOSE ON DOORS as they scissor shut, severing the tether line. Internal wiring sparks.

The beacon is left stranded as the ship accelerates away.

THE BEACON

Debbie watches the ship leaving. She takes a deep breath before turning back to the job at hand. One minute thirty left on the timer.

DEBBIE
(shaky)
Well, guys, the bad news is I won't be joining you for dinner...

INT. BERTHA - INTERCUT

CONRAD
Shit! SHIT! Tibbs, we lost Debbie! Turn the ship back!

TIBBS
Damn you, there's no time! We'll all die. I'm sorry, Debbie.

CONRAD
Fuck sorry -- turn back now!

DEBBIE
No! Conrad, it's okay. You guys can make it. Thanks to me, I might add. As usual a woman saves the day.

CONRAD
(helpless)
You're one in a million, Debbie.

DEBBIE
(works the faulty laser)
Damn straight. I'm smart as well as good-looking. And let's not forget my wonderful fucking personality.

CONRAD
I won't forget.

TIBBS
I'm taking the ship to L-space. We'll have entry speed in one minute.

DEBBIE
I agree with Tibbs -- this is some kind of invasion...

The laser has cut most of the way through the tether joining Debbie to the beacon. She switches off the laser, grabs her jetpack and the glue gun, and squirts a couple of big dollops of the sticky resin on the front of the jetpack. Then she sticks the jetpack to the beacon. Resumes cutting the tether. The timer dips below one minute.

DEBBIE (CONT'D)
You're kind of sweet on me, aren't you, Conrad.

CONRAD
I ... yeah, I guess so.

DEBBIE
Too bad, sweetheart, because I also happen to be fantastic in bed.

CONRAD
I was counting on it.

The tether between Debbie and the beacon severs. She slaps a switch on the jetpack -- the rockets fire full on, blasting her in a backward somersault as the beacon launches away from her, toward the alien fleet.

DEBBIE
Yeee-hah! Go baby go! Go tell em not to fuck with us!

INT. BERTHA

Tibbs is preoccupied with getting the ship into L-space. Conrad is numb. He watches Debbie's plight on the viewscreen.

CONRAD
Hey! She cut herself free! And she did something to the beacon. It's headed for the fleet.

TIBBS
Shit. We just fired the first shot. If they were friendly they won't be now.

CONRAD
Wait. The beacon...

DEBBIE

tumbles slowly through space. At least she's alive. She tries to keep watching the beacon as it diminishes... then grows larger -- the beacon is COMING BACK in her direction! The jetpack has put it in a loop!

DEBBIE
(wearily)
Yeah, whatever ...

THE BEACON

Five seconds left on the counter. It's going to pass within 100 metres of Debbie ...

THE ALIEN FLEET

Like a searchlight, a continuous beam shoots from one of the big ships.

THE BEACON

The beam surrounds the beacon in a cocoon of energy. The timer reaches zero. Debbie watches in awe. The powerful explosion is contained within. The beam ceases.

THE ALIEN FLEET

A second beam shoots out from the same alien craft.

DEBBIE

is caught by the beam, all motion arrested. The beam begins to pull her toward the big alien craft.

CONRAD (V.O.)
Debbie? Debbie?

DEBBIE
I'm alive. I'm being pulled back to their ship. Guess they want to meet me.
(fearful)
Can't blame em, I'm such a fine specimen of womanhood ...

INT. BERTHA

Conrad and Tibbs are strapped into the pilot chairs. They exchange a horrified look: what will the aliens do with her?

THE ALIEN FLEET

A smaller vessel fires its weapons.

DEBBIE

watches the missiles streak past her.

DEBBIE
Conrad!

INT. BERTHA

TIBBS
Almost ready...

An alarm SHRIEKS. CLOSE ON A MONITOR which reads: THREAT ALERT! EMERGENCY MEMORY DUMP -- UPLOADING TO NETWORK ...

CONRAD
Incoming fire! Punch it now!

TIBBS
L-drive online--

EXT. BERTHA

Too late. The missiles obliterate the Bertha.

DEBBIE

is almost at the alien vessel. She witnesses the distant explosion, then disappears through an access port underneath the ship.



-----

END

1 comment:

Belzecue said...

You know what? Aliens vs Predator wasn't that bad, really. I'm going to give Paul W. S. Anderson credit for improving. For a long time it was hard to look at anything he did without thinking about the Resident Evil movies. Uggh. If PWSA starts giving us decent dialog and smart plots, he might just be a praiseworthy director. Maybe if he starts directing other writers' screeplays...

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